Cafe de Desiree

August 8, 2012

Hiking in the Smokies Continued

Filed under: Athletics,Blogging,Exercise,Health,hiking — desi83 @ 7:07 am

So, I left you all stranded at the top of the mountain in my last blog. Now, I suppose I’ll let you know how we made it out of the Smokies alive. Zack and Mike were searching for the unmarked trail that was supposed to lead us to the AT, and Jeff and I were still sitting right below them trying not to think about dying. Jeff was shivering, but he was trying not to show his fear too much, so he just sat there quietly. I was worried about his getting hypothermia, but I was in too much pain to climb the rock to get his pack for him. So, I did what I do best. I started panicking in an annoying way. “Did you guys find it yet?” I yelled. They didn’t respond. “Hey! Is there a trail out of here? Jeff is getting hypothermia, and I can’t move my leg!” I yelled again. “We’re trying,” Mike called back calmly. Mike and Zack were both so calm about the fact that we were lost on a mountain. It was frustrating yet comforting, because as long as they seemed in control of the situation, I wasn’t totally doomed. Also, while my leg was in horrible pain, it was not broken or even sprained. “I want to get married to my girl before I die,” Jeff said. “I want to meet someone who I want to marry before I die,” I said. “I really want to have that meal at Cracker Barrel after this is over,” I said. “Yes, that is a good motivator for staying alive,” Jeff replied. We both laughed. I began to stare at the darkening sky and the tree tops that were now eye level. I finally noticed how breathtakingly beautiful this scene was-we were on top of the world almost literally. I smiled even as I still felt fear growing inside of my gut. “I need to see what is going on,” I said as I began climbing the rock above us. “Hey, be careful doing that,” Jeff said nervously. I was moving aggressively out of fear, so I practically jumped on top of the large and slightly unstable rock. Mike and Zack finally returned, still as calm and collected as ever.

“So?” Jeff asked. “No luck. We’re going to have to make camp right here because we don’t have much sun light left,” Mike announced. “What? No, no I can’t do that. Sleep on top of the mountain? Seriously? This is like some ‘Man vs Wild’ or ‘I Shouldn’t be Alive’ situation. Have you guys seen that show?” I panicked. “Yeah, I’ve seen that,” Jeff said with a laugh through his shivers. “I need to get into a dry shirt, man, can you hand me my pack?” he asked Zack. I had forgotten about his pack. I felt guilty, but I was too consumed with worry to think about anything but escaping the situation. I had found a somewhat level place to sit, but everything was pretty much on an incline. “I can try to call a ranger to see if we can get a helicopter as soon as my phone is charged,” Mike offered. He had a solar/fan powered usb charger. This guy had everything he needed to survive an apocalypse. “Yes, please, get us out of here,” I whined. “I could never look anyone from the guard in the eye if I took a chopper out of here,” Zack commented. He had been in the Air National Guard for quite awhile, and he had been in combat in the Middle East. He could definitely handle a situation like this. Jeff had also been in the guard. “I’m not in the military, nor am I an adventure hiker who watches way too much ‘Man vs Wild’, so I need a helicopter!” I said through tears. I hated being the only whimpy girl there. Mike called the ranger, and after losing signal several times and being transferred to different departments, he finally gave up. “They said to call in the morning. I told them that you have an injured leg, and they suggested that we try to help you down the mountain. They said going down the mountain and back down the trail from where we came is the best route,” Mike explained. I looked down in horror.

“I’m not climbing down a mountain with a bum leg! Are you serious? Is there no way to the At? I mean, I thought that was what you had planned?” I yelled, frustrated. “Somewhere along the way, we made a wrong turn. It is easy to do when there is no clear trail. The ranger said we just needed to climb down,” he said calmly. “I tell you what. Zack and I will try to track down the trail to the AT early in the morning. Then, I will call the ranger again to see if we can get the helicopter,” Mike promised. I felt a little better. He was like the Dali Lama in how calm and serene he was being in this time of doom. I spread out my sleeping bag and dug my pillow out of my pack. I swaddled myself inside of my sleeping bag and propped my feet against a sturdy root so that I wouldn’t slide down the mountain during the night. “Do you want to use my hammock?” Mike offered. “No, I’m okay,” I replied sleepily. “Well, I’m going to set it up, and you can use it if you like. I’m going to try to find a decent place to sleep,” he said slyly. I smiled through my tears. Suddenly, with the realization that I had no choice, I felt a peacefulness settle into me. I was going to sleep right here, next to the tree tops. Then a thought crossed my mind. “I’m kind of by myself over here, what if a wild animal comes? I’ll be the first one it gets,” I commented. They all laughed. “There are no wild animals this far up,” Zack said. I breathed a sigh of a relief. Even though they had gotten us lost up here, I knew Zack and Mike were skilled and knowledgeable about survival situations. I kept feeling myself slide down toward the tree root so that my knees were almost to my chest if I didn’t keep sliding myself back up. Frustrated, I decided to take Mike’s offer and sleep in his hammock. It was also getting cold, so I could cover myself with the hammock as it was quite thick and large enough for two people.

As I began to fall asleep, I heard something rustling underneath me. I covered my face with the excess material from the hammock and stiffened. Then, I heard a slight moan that sounded human. I peeked underneath the hammock and saw Mike lying in my old spot right underneath the hammock. I smiled. I had chosen the best spot in this area for sleeping because he had gone searching for another spot earlier. The temperature dropped dramatically, so I buried myself into the sleeping bag and hammock, including my face. I began to feel very comfortable and sleepy, so I drifted off until the sun came up. I uncovered my face and looked at the sky. The birds were flying closely above us, and the horse flies were surrounding me. I covered my face with the hammock again. Ah, the perils of nature. When was Mike going to wake up? They were supposed to get up early and find us a way out. I almost got up to wake them up, but I decided not to push it.

I finally heard Mike moving around below me, so I peaked to see what he was doing. He was reading the manual that he had brought with him of the Smokies. I heard Zack and Jeff talking below the boulder. Mike shouted to Zack, and they both took off into the wilderness in the clouds. “Hey, are you feeling better today?” I shouted to Jeff. “Yes, I just needed dry clothes last night. That, and I was fucking exhausted,” he replied. “How are you?” “I am really hoping that we can get a helicopter up here today,” I said. “Oh, is that the plan now?” he asked. “Mike said that he was going to try to get them to send out a chopper for us this morning,” I replied. “Oh, cool,” Jeff mumbled. Jeff called out loudly some kind of animal noise that maybe was supposed to be a bird call. Zack mimicked him. I hoped they were returning with good news. “Did you guys find anything?” I shouted. They didn’t say anything. “Did you find a trail?” Jeff shouted. “No,” Zack replied. “Oh, God,” I said in frustration.

Mike sat down underneath my hammock and continued looking at the manual. “Are you going to call for the helicopter?” I asked. “Yeah, in just a second,” he replied as he read. “Are you going to ride the chopper if it comes?” Zack asked Jeff. “I might,” Jeff responded half-jokingly. Mike grabbed his phone and put it on the solar charger. He called the ranger and was on the same cycle of getting transferred and losing signals as he had done last night. I brushed my teeth with the small amount of water that I had left, and I wiped my face clean with a wipe that I had in my pack. I couldn’t shower, but I could at least have a clean face and teeth. We didn’t have a water source up there, so I hoped that whatever happened, we’d get fresh water. I had some fruit juice and a protein bar in my pack, and I enjoyed that pitiful little breakfast as if it were bacon and eggs. Then I began to think about bacon and eggs. We were planning on going to Cracker Barrel after all of this, and I still wanted that to happen.

Mike hung up the phone and went to talk with Zack and Jeff. I was afraid that he was mad at me for being so whiny about the situation. I couldn’t help it, though, I was deathly afraid. I really didn’t want to die without doing any of the things that I want to do with my life. I’ve been in a slump for many years, and I haven’t done what I need to do to get out of it. I’m just always too afraid of making another mistake or getting into a situation that I can’t escape. Now, I was quite literally in that very type of situation, and I was hoping for a rescue. “Mike, what did they say?” I couldn’t wait anymore. I didn’t know why he hadn’t talked to me about it yet. “They said they couldn’t get out here until tomorrow,” he said reluctantly. I screamed. Then, I sighed. “Is there any way to get to the AT from here, or do we have to go down the mountain?” I asked, afraid of the answer. “We have to go down the mountain,” Mike stated. I covered my face and moaned. “Okay. Okay, you know what? I’m going to grow some metaphorical balls and climb down this fucking mountain!” I said. “Alright!” Jeff said with a laugh. I suddenly felt this self-assurance and strength that I had never allowed myself to reach, because I knew that I had to. There was no one to rescue me from my situation. I had to rescue myself with some assistance from my fellow hikers who were not much better off than I was. “Think of it this way. You will have an awesome story to tell your grandkids one day,” Zack pointed out. “Yes, we will definitely have a story to tell everyone,”

To be Contiued…I had no idea this would span more than 2 entries!


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